Delivered via email: February 18, 2022
U.S. Senate Votes on Continued Federal Funding
The U.S. Senate voted on a third FY 2022 continuing resolution to fund the federal government through March 11. The U.S. House already voted on the measure on February 8. The deadline for the Senate to vote on the measure was Friday, February 18, to avoid a government shutdown.
Failure to pass a FY 2022 budget, or even a number of continuing resolutions, would result in a government shutdown which would close most government agencies, like the U.S. Department of Education. It would also affect local school districts that operate Head Start programs and districts that depend on Impact Aid. Without the federal government having an FY 2022 spending plan in place, it would make it difficult for state education agencies and local school districts receiving Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) grants to plan their budgets for the 2022-2023 school years because it is unknown what those ESEA grant amounts would be in the federal FY 2022 budget.
ICYM: The CDC is Likely to Update Indoor Mask Guidance Next Week
It is widely expected that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be updating its guidance on indoor mask-wearing as the latest COVID-19 surge has started to subside. Several states have already relaxed their mask mandates. The Pritzker Administration has hinted that they will relax Illinois’ indoor mask mandate, however, not for schools. It is important to watch out for updated CDC guidelines because that is usually the first step for the Illinois Department of Public Health and Illinois State Board of Education in formulating their guidelines moving forward.
Federal COVID-19 Relief Funding is Still Available
As part of the American Rescue Plan enacted in early 2021, the third round of COVID-19 relief funding was made available to school districts through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund. Has your school district applied for this third round of funding? The Illinois Association of School Boards was made aware by the Illinois State Board of Education that a large portion of Illinois school districts have not yet applied. It is not too late; it is easy to do and can provide substantial funding to support your school district’s needs in addressing COVID-19.
The federal funds can be used in many ways to help your school district transition through COVID-19, especially now with the Omicron surge. According to guidance issued in May of 2021 and more recent guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Education, the funds can be used for:
Facility infrastructure improvements to maintain health facilities such as HVAC, roof, plumbing repairs or replacements,
Addressing the social, emotional, mental health, inequities, and academic needs of students,
Supporting the needs of children with disabilities,
Ensuring that students have access to teachers and other critical staff. This can include using funds to hire additional teachers and school staff, and
Expanding and maintaining existing summer school learning and/or early childhood education programs.
This list is not exhaustive, and state agencies are open to creative and new ideas on how to use these COVID-19 relief funds if they fall in line with the overall goal of the funding program to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19.
The state of Illinois has specified how much each school district is entitled to receive as part of this third round of federal funding. School district allocations can be found in this chart on the State Board of Education’s website.
If your school district has not yet applied for this third round of federal COVID-19 relief funding, you can do so through the state’s IWAS website.
U.S. Department of Education Asked to Extend Spending Deadline on American Rescue Plan Funding
In a recently sent letter, over 30 organizations requested that the U.S. Department of Education extend the deadline for schools to spend American Rescue Plan funds from September 2024 to December 2026. As noted above, these funds can be spent on a wide range of issues, including facility upgrades such as heating ventilation, HVAC replacement, roofing, window, and door replacements, and retrofitting classrooms and buildings. Raising costs due to inflation, supply chain disruptions, and contractor limitations have led to bottlenecks and delays, and schools are asking for more time to evaluate proposals using ARP funds to make these improvements. Also, many school districts were expecting facility improvement funds to be available in the Build Back Better Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act; however, money in those two proposals did not materialize for schools. Thus, schools are looking to retool ARP funds for these purposes and need more time to transition those ARP dollars.